Costain Embraces Lean Engineering Principles

16 March 2012

Costain has embraced Lean Engineering Principles (Lean) to deliver significant cost savings for its customers, and teams from across the Group are transferring what they have learnt on various projects, through the internet, to improve further the performance of the business.

Being Lean means creating value for the customer by cutting waste and making the best use of the resources that are available. Lean Principles have been used in industry for a number of years as a way of establishing a continuous improvement culture, removing waste and making operations more efficient. This approach has become increasingly important for the construction industry as customers face tighter budgets while under increasing pressure to deliver a quality service.

The Highways Agency has worked closely with its supply chain over the last three years to increase the use of Lean Principles in order to get the most out of the country’s strategic road network (SRN).

Costain, which maintains around one-third of the motorways and major A-roads in England on behalf of the Highways Agency and often in joint operation with other contractors, used Lean Engineering on the M53 Bidston Moss Viaduct Refurbishment Scheme for the Agency.  Built in 1969, the 730 metre long, 37-span steel box-girder structure had deteriorated with time.  With a very tight budget, as well as an extremely complex programme, Lean was vital for the success of the project. 

Using Lean, Costain strengthened the structure and returned it to full capacity three months early and realised over £2.8 million in cost savings on the £90 million project.

Adam Bennett, a Project Systems and Performance Manager on the Scheme, said early engagement with the customer and employing a fully integrated supply chain was crucial to its success.

“Using Lean Engineering, we were able to deliver key milestones ahead of schedule and under budget while exceeding customer and stakeholder expectations. We achieved this by employing a Collaborative Planning System which enabled the teams to deliver the same amount of work but with fewer resources,” said Adam.

Through enhanced communication processes and removing any blockers to progress, a ‘Lean Culture’ was embedded which focused all parties on maximising efficiency. 

Lean now forms a major part of the Agency’s procurement process and was recognised by the Government in November 2011 when the Agency was shortlisted for an Achieving Better for Less Award at the 2011 Civil Service Awards. 

“The M53 Bidston Moss refurbishment project clearly demonstrated how the deployment of Lean results in improvements in delivery in terms of cost, quality, time and safety. The team are to be commended on the way they have deployed lean and the positive culture it has engendered throughout the supply chain. The willingness to share this experience/knowledge with the rest of the industry has also been impressive," said Sue Housley, Lean Technical Manager at the Highways Agency.

Costain has embraced Lean Engineering and it has also recognised that it shouldn’t be confined to any one team, sector or division.

As a result, the Company has sought to transfer the lessons learned from the use of Lean across the business via online webinars. This has been crucial in allowing people to contribute to and learn how to apply these principles in order to get the best results for the customer. 

Tim Embley, Group Innovation and Knowledge Manager, said: “Lean is about cutting waste and being more efficient with the resources you have. We are focused on sharing the knowledge we have gained and harnessing it for the benefit of the Company and our customers who are under increasing pressure to cut costs.”

Costain holds regular Lean webinars for any interested party to dial-in to.  Further details can be found within the Knowledge Centre or by contacting members of the Lean Strategy Group led by Tony Blanch, Costain Group Business Improvement Director.